Federal regulators issue warning to e-cig companies claiming misleading packaging targets kids

Federal regulators sent 13 letters to makers and sellers (Source: FDA/FTC)

The vaping trend continues to make its way into schools, and some federal regulators said it could be because certain packaging is designed to attract children.

Side-by-side comparison shows how labels, flavors and even the names on some e-cig products look like candy or other popular kid's items.

Tuesday the FDA joined forces with the Federal Trade Commission to issue warning letters to 13 e-cigarette liquid makers and sellers.

Greenville Family Partnership said these products are becoming too easy for kids to get their hands on, but a new push from one of the top vaping companies is aiming to combat underage use.

JUUL Labs said they will support state and federal initiatives to raise the tobacco-buying age to 21.

"It's not just under the bed or in between the mattress anymore,” said Emily Harper with Greenville Family Partnership. “You can get very smart with this and a lot of parents don't think of these detailed places."

Detailed hiding places that is, Harper said as the vaping and e-cig trend gains popularity parents are on the lookout, but she's concerned social media is staying one step ahead of them.

"There's just a glamorized version that this is cool," Harper said.

She said she’s received several panicked calls from parents who find their children’s vape pens. She said the trend has been going on for months, and now the age is getting younger.

"I know as young as fourth and fifth graders know about it," Harper said.

The children are learning about it from social media and their friends at school, and those pushing for restrictions like Matthew Myers with Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said misleading packaging and flavors target underage users.

"It should suspend the sale of flavors that appeal to kids like mango and cool cucumber,” Myers said.

The FDA and FTC sent warnings to companies selling the liquid products that resemble juice boxes, candy and cookies. They said at least one of the products was shipped with actual candy, but the cartridges and pods themselves are no candy. Instead experts said they carry a powerful punch.

"Some are equal to a whole back of cigarettes nicotine-wise,” Harper said. “So that's a lot of nicotine that's going into your brain and we try to educate kids all the time that it re-wires your brain for life."

JUUL Labs came up with a $30 million initiative in which they said they are aware that young people have gained access to their products and they are committed to supporting efforts to raise the tobacco-buying age to 21. The CEO added in a statement: "We cannot be more emphatic on this point: No young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL.”

Harper said vaping and JUULING is happening at bathrooms in the schools, she's even heard of students taking puffs when their teachers turn their back.

Federal regulators said now that letters have been sent, they might file injunctions or seize products if the companies don't take action to address concerns.

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